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Glaucoma tests

Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve. This nerve carries information from the eye to the brain. When the nerve is damaged, you can lose your vision.

There are three types of glaucoma.

  • Open-angle glaucoma (OAG) usually affects both eyes at the same time. Your vision gradually gets worse. But it gets worse so slowly that you may not notice it.
  • Closed-angle glaucoma (CAG) usually affects one eye at time. CAG can happen suddenly and be a medical emergency.
  • Congenital glaucoma is a rare form of glaucoma that some infants have at birth. Some children and young adults can also get a type of the disease.

Who is at risk

People at increased risk for glaucoma include those who:

  • Are middle-aged and older. The chance of getting glaucoma gets higher as you age, especially after age 40.
  • Have a family history of glaucoma.
  • Have high eye pressure (high intraocular pressure).
  • Are African Americans (for open-angle glaucoma).
  • Are East Asians and people with East Asian ancestry (for closed-angle glaucoma).
  • Are farsighted (greater risk for developing closed-angle glaucoma).
  • Have had an eye injury or eye surgery, such as cataract surgery.
  • Have diabetes.
  • Have high blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Have been taking corticosteroid medicines.

Symptoms

If you have OAG, the only symptom you are likely to notice is loss of vision. You may not notice this until it is serious. That's because the eye that is less affected makes up for the loss at first. Side vision is often lost before central vision.

Symptoms of CAG can be mild, with symptoms like blurred vision that last only for a short time. Severe signs of CAG include longer-lasting episodes of blurred vision or pain in or around the eye. You may also see colored halos around lights, have red eyes, or feel sick to your stomach and vomit.

In congenital glaucoma, signs can include watery eyes and sensitivity to light. Your baby may rub his or her eyes, squint, or keep the eyes closed much of the time.

What you can do

  • Wear protective eyewear.
  • Get regular comprehensive eye exams.

Preventive service at no cost

You may be screened once every 12 months if you’re at high risk for glaucoma. You’re at high risk if one or more of these applies to you:

  • You have diabetes.
  • You have a family history of glaucoma.
  • You’re African American and age 50 or older.
  • You’re Hispanic and age 65 or older.

Why screening is important

There are no known ways to prevent glaucoma, but blindness or significant vision loss can be prevented if the disease is recognized in the early stages.

What the screening is

Your eye doctor will take a brief history, an intraocular pressure measurement, and a detailed dilated examination of the optic nerve.

You will need to be sure someone can drive you home after the dilated exam.

Treatment

Glaucoma can't be cured. But there are things you can do to help stop more damage to the optic nerve. To help keep your vision from getting worse, you'll probably need to use medicine (most likely eyedrops) every day. You may also need laser treatment or surgery. You'll also need regular checkups with your eye doctor.

If glaucoma is detected, the physician should file for the benefit on that visit, schedule the patient for a follow-up, comprehensive examination, and initiate the appropriate tests during the follow-up.

Additional tips

You can use vision aids, such as large-print items and special video systems, to help you cope with reduced eyesight. Support groups and counseling can also help you deal with vision loss.

Resources